Thursday, July 5, 2012

Product Reviews: Alba Botanica, Burt's Bees, Aveda, Tom's of Maine. Natural products for a healthy body and planet

For a little break from trip reports, let us look at some products reviews!

Recently the subject of personal care products was brought to my attention.  How many chemicals do we introduce ourselves to before we even walk out the door in the morning?

If you are lucky, you get to wake up with your own personal sunrise, apparently.

Every day most people wake up and stumble into the bathroom.  We brush our teeth with various chemicals we are told will keep them healthy.  We jump in the shower and wash our hair and body with chemicals we expect to provide shine and moisture.  Perhaps we rub on an extra layer of chemical moisture after the shower to prevent dry skin.  We continue the ritual by rubbing our armpits with chemicals to keep us from sweating, and we rub our face with some chemical combination to prevent sunburn, then many people powder their noses with some colored chemical make-up to hide our various "flaws."

One way to to reduce the number of chemicals one is exposed to would be to simplify the morning routine.  Perhaps you don't need to shower every day.  I personally only wash my hair every couple of days because it is so long.  Excessive hair washing will strip your hair of natural oils that keep it healthy.  Try washing hair every other day and see how it goes.  There is a growing movement known as "no-poo," where people have decided to forgo shampoo all together and clean their hair with other more natural substances like baking soda, or just water.  When I go a week or two without washing my hair (on a camping trips, etc) it turns into one giant foot long dreadlock.  I think I will leave the no-poo movement to people without so much hair.

One can forgo make-up for regular day to day goings on.  This would also give the skin a much needed break to breath.  I rarely wear make-up, so this is easy for me!  Maybe you can get away with skipping the deodorant every other day?  I personally wouldn't risk this one, but some might be brave enough to to experiment :).

For all the people who want to live chemical free, but might not be willing to limit their personal hygiene habits, wouldn't natural alternatives be better for us, and better for the planet?

Here are some suggestions for daily "personal care" products that are both kind to the environment and kind to your body.  I have personally used and recommend most of these products.  These natural products work just as well, and often better than the chemical concoctions many people use on a daily basis.

For sunscreen, there are a number of options, but I absolutely love Alba Botanica for sunscreen and my after-sun lotion. It is natural, and their products feel and smell absolutely glorious. I love them, and my incredibly sensitive skin loves them too. They also make shampoo/conditoner, and many other personal care products.

Another great company for all of your body-care needs is Burt's Bees. I am hooked on the original lip balm, but they also make sunscreen, body wash, soap, shampoo/conditoner, lotion, etc., that is also very gentle on my super sensitive skin. It is a great all natural company. They use bee's wax in their products where other companies might use a petroleum product!

For make-up, I have had a lot of luck with Aveda products. The only problem with Aveda is they are pretty expensive. I don't wear make-up very often unless I am going somewhere fancy, so a little goes a long way. If you don't pile it on regularly, they are of a high quality and will last a long time.

For deodorant, toothpaste, and soap a lot of people swear by Tom's of Maine.  It is widely available at most natural grocers.  I have never used Tom's products before but have heard very good things.

I hope some of these suggestions come in handy next time you are about to pick up a bottle of shampoo, or some sunscreen for the summer.  Give the more natural choices a try and you just might find yourself a natural product enthusiast!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mt Whitney Training hike #2: Cucamonga Peak Via Icehouse Canyon

After setting the pace for our Mt. Whitney training on Iron Mountain, the husband and I decided to tackle one of the big Southern California peaks.  For this hike we chose Cucamonga Peak.  This prominent peak towers above Rancho Cucamonga and the sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles.  It tops out at an impressive 8859'.  And might I say, it is an absolutely stunning hike!

Just one view from the top of Cucamonga Peak

Cucamonga Peak is the second hike in what is known as the "So Cal SixPack of Peaks."  The So Cal SixPack is a series of more and more strenuous hikes that go higher in elevation with each peak.  The peaks included in the six pack are as follows:  Mt. Wilson (12.6 miles, 5710'), Cucamonga Peak (11.6 miles, 8859'), Mt. San Antonio (a.k.a. Baldy, 11 miles, 10068'), San Bernardino Peak (15.7 miles, 10649), San Jacinto Peak (11.8 miles, 10834'), and the crowning glory, the tallest peak in So Cal, San Gorgonio (a.k.a. Old Greyback, 17.3 miles, 11503').  Done in sequence, these hikes are an excellent training schedule for any big hike like Whitney or Half-dome.  But they are also great accomplishments in their own right!  We plan to hike all of these peaks before Whitney with the exception of Mt. Wilson.  We skipped that one because it is the lowest, and we aren't sure we have enough weekends for all of them. For more info on the So Cal SixPack,  check out the SoCal SixPack page at  They have great trail descriptions, difficulty ratings, distances, and elevations.  Overall they are one of the best hiking sites I have found.  They are definitely the site I go to most often for my trail info.

Training Hike #2  
Cucamonga Peak via Icehouse Canyon
Peak Height: 8859'
Distance: 11.6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 4300'

We completed this hike on Sunday, June 14th.  We left the house at 7am.  We planned to leave at 6am but we were both feeling pretty groggy and it was a struggle just to get out by 7am.  It is 1hr 45 minute drive to get up to Baldy Village from Oceanside.  Our first stop was the ranger station to pick up our wilderness permit and adventure pass (we left our annual pass in the other car.  It was a rough morning).  The minute I got out of the car and inhaled that cool, clean mountain air filled with the scent of pine, I was instantly refreshed. This was our first visit to the Baldy Village area, and it is a great little spot!  You really feel like you have escaped all the hustle and bustle of the city.  And these are some real mountains with huge towering trees and some respectable peaks.  These things can sometimes be hard to come by in So Cal.  I was stoked to get started!

We drove up the road a mile or so and grabbed a spot in the Icehouse Canyon parking lot, gathered our gear and set out at around 9:30am.  We set a leisurely pace as we began to climb up through the canyon.  Icehouse Canyon is absolutely beautiful.  It was the perfect temperature, and the canyon hosts a flowing creek complete with many waterfalls and clear pools, as well as a smattering of little stone cabins and ruins.  Some of the cabins appeared to still be in use.

Cute little waterfall in Icehouse Canyon

With the sound of the creek and the multitude of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks lifting our spirits and propelling us onward, we made good time through the canyon.  It really seemed to fly by in such a gorgeous setting.  We followed all trail junction signs up to Icehouse Saddle by the shortest route.  At one junction there is a slightly longer, but gentler trail option called the Chapman Trail, but we opted for the shorter, steeper route.  Once you climb out of the canyon there are some switchbacks that lead up the mountainside.  The views start to become more grand.  

Climbing out of the canyon on the switchbacks

Once we finished the switchbacks, which are pretty strenuous, we arrived at Icehouse Saddle.  This is a junction of three major trails.  The 3 T's trail branches off to the left, the Ontario Trail branches right, and straight ahead is the Cucamonga Peak trail.  For many hikers in Icehouse Canyon, this is their destination.  But after a quick lunch of PB&J (that I dropped in the dirt, much to my dismay), and some trail mix, we continued up the Cucamonga Peak trail to the summit.

Erik checking out the map at Icehouse Saddle

The saddle is more than halfway to the peak, but we had a long drive home so it was time to get moving!  As we left the saddle the trail quickly became looser and less maintained.  We got to cross some impressive talus slopes and the views were quite spectacular.  We kept moving as the trail became increasingly strenuous.  There is one final push up a steep slope to the peak.  We made it!

Basking in victory at the summit!

At the top we got to relax for a bit and have a snack.  My legs were toast!  But it was worth every step.  The views on the summit were amazing.  The peak is really prominent and plunges directly down into the Inland Empire.  And in the other direction you get a stunning view of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Erik enjoying a snack at the summit

Luckily the hike down is pretty gradual in most spots so it wasn't too brutal.  Plus on the way down there was a little more time for photography!  We booked it down the trail stopping for pictures here and there.

Crossing a talus slope on our jaunt back to the trailhead

The afternoon light in Icehouse Canyon is perfect for pictures.  On our way back down into the canyon we stopped at Columbine Spring, which flows directly under the trail, to splash some cool, refreshing water on our face.  The waterfalls in the canyon were gorgeous, so we dipped our heads in a few of them as well.  

An inviting pool in Icehouse Canyon, but the water is cold!

The cabins in the canyon are quite adorable, so of course I had to pose with one.  I wouldn't mind having a cabin like this of my own someday!

This is my future summer home

We got back to the car around 5:00pm with plenty of daylight left.  It was a fantastic hike, and a gorgeous day.  I definitely plan to do some of the other hikes from Icehouse Canyon in the future.  I can honestly say this was one of my favorite So Cal hikes to date.  It would also make a great backpacking trip!  I can't wait to go back to the area to tackle more of the peaks.  

Till next time, keep living life to the fullest and hike on!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mt. Whitney training: Iron Mountain

Anyone remember my post about goals?  No?  Well, here is a little refresher.  Sometime around the new year I mentioned that I had some new years resolutions.  Some of these goals were easier than others (I did pretty darn well eating paleo for 6 months!).  Some have yet to be accomplished.  But that is a story for another time.

I only bring this up because the dear husband and I have set our sites on a much loftier goal for the both of us!  We have decided to climb Mt. Whitney for our one year wedding anniversary!

View of Mt. Whitney from the Whitney Webcam.  We'll be way up there!

Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the United States outside of Alaska and tops out at 14,505' above sea level.  This mountain is in the California Sierra Nevada range.  We will be attempting the climb over two days via the main Mt. Whitney Trail.  The total distance is 22 miles round trip with over 6100' of elevation gain.  Our anniversary is July 30th, and we have planned our summit attempt for the second weekend in August.  As we came to this decision just a week or so ago, we did not have the opportunity to enter the permit lottery for the mountain.  Our plan is to show up and try to snag a walk-in permit from a cancellation.  Cross your fingers for us!  It is going to be a tough one, but we have already started our training!

We are not complete strangers to high elevation hiking.  Both Erik and I have spent a fair amount of time at elevation.  We both lived in Tahoe City, CA and in Boulder, CO for years above 5000'.  I have hiked many miles above 10,000' and we summited San Jacinto last year (10,834').  We attempted to summit Longs Peak in Colorado (16 miles roundtrip, 14,259') but due to a very late start (try 10am when you are supposed to start before dawn...oops.) only made it to the keyhole (13,150').

Sitting on the top of San Jacinto Peak!

This is all well and good, but alas, living at sea level has made us soft!  We decided need to do some training hikes leading up to the big summit attempt.  We have decided to start fairly small and build up to longer and higher hikes every weekend.

Training Hike:
Iron Mountain, Poway, CA
6.63 miles round trip, 1000' elevation gain (plus side trip to the iron mine)

Our goal: Iron Mountain

We completed this hike on Sunday, June 17th.  The Iron Mountain trail is extremely well developed and easy to follow.  It was quite hot out on Sunday but the trail was still pretty busy.  We were sweating up most of the trail, but got a good rhythm going a mile or so in from the trailhead.  It was 91 degrees at the summit but it felt a lot hotter walking up the trail with no shade.  We completed this hike pretty handily despite the heat, so it was a good hike to judge our current fitness level.  There are a few picnic tables at the top to stop for lunch, and the view is gorgeous.

   Great view of north San Diego County from the top

On the way back down the trail we took the short but strenuous detour to the old iron mine.  This trail is very primitive and overgrown in spots, and was difficult to find.  It slogs straight up the hillside about a mile from the main trailhead.  The reward at the top is a small pit where people used to mine for iron ore (hence "Iron Mountain").  There were still chunks of the heavy, dark iron ore lying around the pit.  We tested a few of them with a magnet to confirm the identity.  I grabbed a nice, heavy chunk to use as a book end and lugged it back to the car.  Collecting iron at Iron Mountain?  Totally worth it.  We finished our hike with a BBQ bacon cheeseburger, fries and a shake at The Habit in Carmel Mountain.  Overall an awesome day!

More training hikes to come.  Stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop Internet Censorship NOW!!

I am sure many of you have noticed the blackout of Wikipedia, Reddit,, and the Google logo today. These internet giants are making a statement about the freedom of information on the internet, and how SOPA and PIPA, two pieces of legislation in the House and Senate right now, could endanger everything the internet has come to represent. If either of these legislations pass, the internet would be a very different place. I don't need the lobbyist dollars of the entertainment industry to dictate what I am or am not allowed to see.

Now is the time for the American people to make a stand. If our government is still for the people and by the people, then our united voice should mean more than millions of dollars in lobbyist money from a few companies.

Protect the free exchange of information. Stop internet censorship. Stop SOPA and PIPA. Learn more at

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, world! Welcome to 2012. 2011 was quite a year for me, full of life changing events. My biggest event of 2011 was my marriage to my wonderful husband in July! We had an amazing wedding in Santa Barbara, CA and spent a fabulous adventure filled week in Kauai, kayaking the Na'Pali coast, zip lining in the jungle, and hiking to waterfalls. We sent 2011 off in style by spending the weekend climbing in Joshua Tree and visiting with friends. I am ready to hit the ground running in 2012!

The start of a new year is a great time for evaluating ones life and accomplishments over the past year, goal setting, and renewed determination. So what kind of goals work best for a new years resolution? Any kind! They say that the best goals are attainable and measurable. For example it is better to make a goal of losing 15lbs by June (or 20 or 30 or whatever) than to say vaguely "I want to lose weight." You are more likely to "go to the gym twice a week" than "workout more." Etc.

So what are my new years resolutions? Well, I have a few!

Resolution #1: Eat Paleo for six months!
That's right, the dear husband and I have decided to kick off this year with a Paleo diet/lifestyle change. The general idea of the Paleo diet is to eat hunter/gatherer style. Basically, if people make it, you don't eat it! This means no post agricultural revolution marvels such as wheat, rice, dairy, etc, and no processed foods. Your diet consists of nutrient rich veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, and lean meats. It is a very clean way to eat, and I am excited to get started. We ate paleo for a number of months leading up to our wedding, so we are no strangers to the practice. The plan is to be strict paleo during the week, and be a bit more relaxed on the weekend (while still eating healthy). I plan to stick to the Paleo Diet until my brother's wedding in May!

Resolution #2: Complete 10 hot yoga classes in 8 weeks!
This is about as measurable and attainable as resolutions get. Why is it so specific? I bought a Hot Yoga groupon for a studio near my house. It was 10 hot yoga classes for $39, but you only have 8 weeks to complete them all once you start. Groupon is a great way to try new things, as the deals are great, and there is usually a large variety of fitness deals available. Hot yoga is the practice of doing yoga in a room heated up to 105 degrees! Wish me luck!

Resolution #3: Write at least 2 blog posts a month!
That's right, I am going to try to keep up with the blog a bit more. I think that is doable.

So those are my three resolutions. I have a lot more I want to do this year, and many professional and personal goals I would like to accomplish, but these are the resolutions I will use to get the year moving in the right direction.

Good luck to everyone looking for a fresh start, and congratulations to all the people who are continuing to accomplish their goals every day. I hope you had a successful 2011, and I hope 2012 is a great year!